The Over-Sugaring of America

What do a Tall Mocha Frappuccino, a packet of pancake syrup, an 8 ounce tub of fruited yogurt, or a half cup of chocolate fudge brownie ice cream have in common? They all meet or exceed your daily added sugar quota for the entire day. You may be consuming much more sugar than you realize, according to Elizabeth Somer, registered dietitian and author of Eat Your Way to Happiness, who is joined us to give us the scoop on how much sugar sneaks into our diets every day and from some surprising places.

1. How much sugar are we consuming these days?
Back at the turn of the last century, people averaged about 4 teaspoons of added sugar a day. Today, according to the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA), we drench ourselves in 30 or more teaspoons of added sugar every day (that’s not counting the natural sugars in milk, fruit, or other unprocessed foods).  That is roughly 100 pounds of sugar every year for every man, woman, and child. That’s more sugar than has ever been eaten by any creature in the entire history of the planet.
 Think about it - 30 teaspoons of sugar. That’s 497 calories a day (the calorie equivalent of a hamburger and fries!), more than 25% of a person’s dietary intake from a substance that provides nothing but calories and heartache. Put another way - if all you gave up diet-wise was added sugars, you’d lose 50 pounds in a year

2. We didn’t always eat this much sugar, did we? 
Whereas our grandparents when they were young consumed about 4 teaspoons of added sugar from homemade jams, pies, and desserts, today most of our sugar comes already added for us in processed foods. My guess is you eat a lot more added sugar than you think. It’s obvious that frosted flakes, soft drinks, and jelly beans have sugar. But a whole bunch of sugar in American diets comes from processed foods that aren’t even sweet, from canned chili, frozen turkey entrees, pizza, peanut butter, and bread to hot dogs, spaghetti sauce, baked beans, canned soups, and salad dressings. For example, 
1. Weight Watchers Smart Ones Teriyaki Chicken and Vegetable Bowl has more than 3 teaspoons.
2. Simply Asia Pad Thai noodles has 7 teaspoons.
3. Pop Tarts have more than 8 teaspoons.
4. Yoplait Fruit Smoothie has more than 10 teaspoons. 
5. General Mills Oatmeal Crisp cereal has 5 teaspoons and Kellogg Smart Start has more than 4 teaspoons (compare that to Cocoa Puffs, which has less than 3 teaspoons)
 3.  We know sugar causes tooth decay. But has it been linked to other health problems? According to the American Heart Association, overly-sweet diets raise blood triglyceride levels while lowering HDLs, the good cholesterol, thus increasing heart-disease risk. Other studies found that excessive sugar intake increases risk for pancreatic cancer, breast cancer, and diabetes. Many researchers also suspect a sugar-laden diet is a culprit in the development and progression of depression and mood swings, memory loss, fatigue, osteoporosis, vision loss, and kidney disease. It’s even been linked to pregnancy complications and birth defects. But, without consistent evidence, the jury remains out.  

  Whether sugar causes weight gain remains controversial. Some studies find no link to sugar intake and body fat, while others do. For example, one study from the University of Southern California found that the more sugar a person ate the greater the risk for obesity and insulin insensitivity, a risk factor for diabetes. Another study from the University of Alabama found that even limiting sugar to 10% of calories isn’t enough to prevent weight gain or diabetes, heart disease, and memory loss.
  Of course, it goes without saying that every time you shove some highly processed food packed with sugar in your mouth, you miss the opportunity to nourish your body with foods loaded with mood-boosting nutrients, such as colorful vegetables, fresh fruit, whole grains, legumes, nuts, soy, or low-fat milk products. Surprise surprise: the more sugar you eat, the greater your chances of being malnourished.  


This content requires the latest Adobe Flash Player and a browser with JavaScript enabled. Click here for a free download of the latest Adobe Flash Player.